My Dream PDA/SmartPhone

My PDA Background

The Psion Revo

The Psion Revo - the best form factor, ever.

Compaq IPAQ 3650

Compaq IPAQ 3650 - battery life shorter than my attention span. It's veeery shiny, tho'!

The Nokia 9210 Communicator, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The Nokia 9210 Communicator

Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone. Here shown streaming video over bluetooth to the laptop, that uses WiFi to connect to the LAN which is connected to the Internet. Geek++

The Nokia 9500 Communicator - Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, IRda, GPRS/EDGE, 80mb RAM, MMC Slot., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The Nokia 9500 Communicator - Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, IRda, GPRS/EDGE, 80mb RAM, MMC Slot.

I started out with paper - we all did, "back then". As a kid in school I used a little notebook kind of thing with 5 little slips on the right hand side. One for each day of the week, to tear off once the day had gone. At other times I used calendars, and in Uni I used a small Filofax. I really loved the configurability of the Filofax. In 1997 or so I retired my Filofax for the Palm Personal. I loved the Palm and new kids showed up on the block, like Windows CE. I was however very happy with the Palm, as it had a battery life lasting several months. It synched nicely to my PC and it was just "there", and I seldom had to worry about it.
Unfortunately I threw it across the floor once and it never recovered from that assault.
I switched to the Psion Revo, and I do think that the Revo is the one that has seen me be most productive. The Revo is more like a computer compared to the Palm, you have executables and they run like Windows applications. The biggest difference between the Palm and the Psion Revo is the form factor. Where the Palm is in notepad format, the Revo is in clamshell, or laptop format with a full keyboard. The Revo had a few very cool features, for example, I could touch type on the keyboard, and at the same time, it had a touch sensitive screen. It also had a tiny speaker that could emit more than just bleeps (no MP3 player, but still). It could also connect to the Internet over the IR port and an IR enabled phone (my Nokia 7110 at this time). Sending text messages was also a doddle as I typed them on the Revo and fired them off through my 7110. It also included pocket versions of Word, Access and Excel (aptly named Documents, Data and Sheet). The negative side with the Revo was the battery life - not the charged life, but the life of the battery in the device. After a while it would simply not switch on anymore.
Sadly the Revo got nicked and I turned to the IPAQ H3650 - this was the 64mb RAM version and its party piece was to double as a (limited size) MP3 player. It also had stunning graphics and a few other bells and whistles - but basically it didn't work. Transcriber is a bad way of inputting text, and I can't be bothered with an on-screen keyboard or the Graffitti like Palm-scribbling. The battery life was a laugh, at best. If I used it on my way into work on the Tube and in the office for taking a few (painful) notes, it usually died on me on the way home. Useless is the word.
From here I ventured to the Nokia 9210 the 3rd generation Communicator. This was the first Communicator with the Symbian OS, which is the evolution from the Epoc OS that was used in the Psion computers. Therefore I felt right at home, almost, like, something.
Compared to the Revo the 9210 had a horrible keyboard, was bulky, and slow, very slow. Nokia had also stuck with their UI guidelines and thus removed the touch screen and stuck with the four buttons on the right hand side of the screen. On the plus side the screen was incredibly crisp and, once again, text messages were a doddle. Sadly email and general connectivity were poor due to the lack of GPRS and Bluetooth.
From here I moved to the Sony Ericsson P800 which I loved. It's one of those devices which "just worked". The Internet browser (Opera and the built in one) was awesome, the emails worked and so forth. Very nice. On the bad sides it lacked a bit of RAM and the Sony proprietary Memory Stick Duo cards are horrendously expensive.
The P800 lasted a good while, but I missed the keyboard, so when the Nokia 9500 Communicator hit the market it looked like it was going to be a winner. Mainly due to its hardware configuration which included Bluetooth, IR, Wireless LAN, GPRS including Edge, and 80mb RAM expandable with a (cheap) MMC card. Sadly the truth is a bit different. The 9500 is in fact quite slow, and the user interface is the same cumbersome one as on the 9210. The battery life is awesome, but the generic usability is ancient. For example, out of the box, it lacks scheduled email retrieval, how 1995 is that!?
That's a bit about my previous PDAs, on with the show, glancing into the future (HAHAHA!)

The form factor

Anyone who's using a computer, or any other tool for that matter knows that hardware buttons rock. You can stick as many buttons on a touch-sensitive screen, but stick a few hardware buttons on it and you can operate it in your pocket. The same goes for remote controls, telephones etc. This means that my 'Perfect PDA' will have a keyboard, one that I can use to touch type. Yes, really. No manager-type-thumb-twiddling for me thanks, full-on-touch-typing, pleeeease. I also want hardware buttons for the most used features; including but not limited to: Camera, Email application, Instant Messenger Application, Web Browser, Play/Pause, Next Track plus Volume Up/Down. If Sony(-Ericsson) allows I would also like it to have the magnifficent 5-way JogDial that the P800 has got. It's wonderful for browsing the web and in general browsing menus etc.
I also want a biiig screen - which kind of contradicts the fact that this item should be highly portable, but I guess we can come to a compromise on this one. I would also like it to be fairly flat, Psion Revo style actually. The hinged mechanism in the Revo was a joy to use as it gave the user the best of both worlds. Folded up the Revo was flat and fairly thin, Opened up it angled the keyboard for better touch typing and the screen for better viewing. Neat! The Screen has to be touch sensitive as I can't stand navigating the "Interwebnet" using the cursor pointer key thingiemebob on the 9500 - the P800 was far more superior when it comes to browsing the web.
Since this is my dream PDA I would also like a tiny "status" screen on the outside so I don't have to open the device up to see if I've recieved any important emails or instant messages.
This means we end up with a fairly large, but flat, clamshell kind of device, with touch scren and a proper "better than Revo" type keyboard with a few "globally accessible" hardware buttons. On the outside I'd like a little screen, black n white, or maybe OLED will do.


For a device that's portable, it's important that it can "dock with any space ship that comes along", this means that someone needs to use the shrinking tool and cram some very nice goodies into this little dream device. Obviously I want it to have the standard, IR port and the Bluetooth (2.0 as of writing), and more and more common Wireless LAN (WiFi). I also want it to have standard phone features which include GSM, GPRS/EDGE, and 3G. That should keep me wired wirelessly for a good while and in quite a few places.
But, being on the dream-theme, I also wish for USB connectivity, including USB host, so I can connect my digital camera to the device and download the images (to send them off as emails or upload them to a website). If you can cram FireWire into there too, I doubt I will have issues with that. I would also like the thing to have one or two expansion slots, like SD/MMC or CompactFlash. This means that, not only can I connect additional memory to it, but that I can connect strange future expansion slots too. Oh, and as we're being ridiculously demanding, stick a GPS in there too (I'm running out of TLAs!), and should you muster a DVB digital TV reciever. I think that's it. (I don't have to mention a headphone connector do I?)

All this and...

...Rabbit Stew. With this souped up gadget what's it all aimed at..? Well, lemme tell'ya. I want a device like this, so that I can be semi-mobile. I don't want it as my workstation (I need far more screen real estate than a PDA to be happy), but I do want it as everything else. I want it to download my emails to my pocket, I want to be online with my Instant Messenger Accounts, including Skype voice communications. I want to be able to surf the web, with comfort, viewing "normal" pages. I want to be able to sit down and write a story like this, including editing and resizing pictures taken with my digital cameras. Should I need to figure out something with numbers I want to open a spreadsheet to work it out. I want to have a simple DB applicatoin so that I can store any junk that I need to.
I want the email application to be all singing and dancing - I don't want these silly connection problems that the 9500 gives me, I just want it to work, including adding attachments.
The device should also have a native eBook reader as I think that would be splendid. The music and media player should also be a bit more advanced than plaing individual files, it doesn't have to be as advanced as some of the portable MP3 players, but something along those lines would be nice.
Naturally the device should have the usual applications like Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Telephone, Camera, etc.

But there's devices like this out there..?

Close, but no cigar. Most devices "out there" come close, but they're not the ultimate pocket device. Very few of them are designed to be connected to a network all the time. Some of them are aimed purely at business users. A few others are aimed to flex their muscles with numbers, such as processor speed, screen size, RAM, etc.
None of them are designed to be used to key in anything more than a tiny tiny email. In fact, the notepad form-factor with the thumb-keypad at the bottom is just silly. Why not turn it around, and give it the clamshell form factor; do it properly.

Why doesn't this "Dream Device" exist?

The answer is quite simple; because of you; the customer. Too many of these devices are either bought by either managers or people who get mezmerized by mHz, RAM and such things.
Very few people see these devices as something more than between-PC-devices. What I mean with that is, that nobody requires the manufacturer to come up with a device that you can take with you on a long weekend trip, and still be able to perform most of your email communication and other tasks that you usually perform on your computer. Nope, most people are happy with a PDA that can keep some notes, the contacts, and at best, check the email headers so that you can ask to borrow a PC at some place.
To me, the Perfect PDA would be a device that would allow me to roam around on the planet, and still be connected and up-to-date with what I would normally do on my computer. Regarding both business and pleasure. The technology is almost there, but someone needs to manufacture the actual device.

And so..!

That leaves us with an imaginary amzing device that I'd carry with me pretty much wherever I'd go. If it would be powered by an OS that has got free and open tools for it, that'd be great (Linux anyone?!). The battery life would have to last longer than I can stay awake. I don't mind charging the device after a complete days use, but I do mind the device restricting what I want it to do.
This device won't be built unless more people scream for it.
There's one thing that might stop me wanting this "Dream PDA"; and that's the path that has been shown by the Nokia Internet Tablet 770 which gives you a connected device that, outside of WiFi hotspots requires a separate connection - typically a Bluetooth mobile phone connected to the Internet.
This setup might prove more flexible, and it might prove that it's much easier to transport the two; one small phone in your pocket, and the Internet Tablet in your backpack/briefcase. We'll see!
However, right now, I'm quite saddned by the fact that there's several PDAs and Smartphones that are "close but no cigars"; they're all individually falling on tiny and annoying features. Today, there's space for "a new Palm" on the market; a device that will be "the next thing".
Till then, I'll keep on dreaming!